With a name like 'flying fish' it would be reasonable to expect that this specialist group of fish from the Exocoetidae family can actually actually achieve what their name implies. But how can that possibly be true? They are of course fish and therefore surely they are designed to swim - not fly?

So, do flying fish really fly?

No, flying fish don’t really fly, but they do glide through the air. 

To glide upward out of the water, a flying fish will moves its tail up to 70 times per second. It then spreads its pectoral fins and tilts them slightly upward to provide lift. At the end of a glide, it folds its pectoral fins to re-enter the sea, or drops its tail into the water to push against the water to lift itself for another glide, or to chang direction.

The curved profile of the "wing" is comparable to the aerodynamic shape of a bird wing. The fish is able to increase its time in the air by flying straight into or at an angle to the direction of updrafts created by a combination of air and ocean currents.

How long can a flying fish fly for?

In May 2008, a Japanese television crew were filming flying fish off the coast of Yakushima Island, Japan. During one piece of film they managed to time a flying fish. The creature spent 45 seconds in flight. The previous record was 42 seconds.

Flying fish can use updrafts at the leading edge of waves to cover distances of at least 400 m (1,300 ft). They can travel at speeds of more than 70 kilometres per hour (43 mph). Maximum altitude is 6 m (20 ft) above the surface of the sea. Some accounts have even had them them landing on ships' decks!

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